Intellectual Assessment of Deaf People: A Critical Review of Core Concepts and Issues

Susan J. Maller and Jeffery P. Braden

in The Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education, Volume 1, Second Edition

Second edition

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199750986
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Intellectual Assessment of Deaf People: A Critical Review of Core Concepts and Issues

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  • Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Neuropsychology



This chapter addresses cognitive assessment of deaf children and adults. Emphasis is placed on the psychometric properties (e.g., reliability, validity, norms, item analysis) of published intelligence tests when administered to this population. The use of intelligence tests with deaf people has a long history that can be traced back to the early years of formal intelligence testing aimed at identifying those students in need of special education due to “mental retardation.” Intelligence tests continue to serve as a primary component of the assessment process for special education. Practitioners who serve deaf children regularly are faced with the dilemma of choosing from a variety of published tests that often lack sufficient evidence of validity (i.e., that the test score represents what it claims to represent) for this population. There are several potential reasons psychometric evidence is lacking for tests when administered to deaf people. First, deaf people constitute a low-incidence population, and sufficient sample sizes are difficult to obtain to conduct the necessary investigations. Second, the deaf population is composed of a diverse group in terms of a variety of variables, such as communication modalities, degree of hearing loss, parental hearing loss, age of onset, etiology, presence of additional disabilities, race/gender, socioeconomic status (SES), and educational placement. Third, funding is often not available to support investigations by test publishers and independent researchers for low-incidence populations. Finally, many independent researchers may lack the skills both for working with deaf people and in psychometrics that are required to conduct the necessary studies. Thus, valid cognitive assessment remains a difficult dilemma for practitioners whose goals may include helping educators understand a deaf child’s intellectual abilities and educational needs.

Keywords:  cognition; intelligence; intelligence testing; construct validity; testing accommodations; nonverbal cognition; verbal cognition; test bias; deaf; hard-of-hearing; hearing loss

Article.  9415 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Neuropsychology

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